Hyssop is a woody perennial plant somewhat similar to lavender and salvia. It is grown as a decorative shrub and also as a medicinal herb. The American Herb Society recommends hyssop as an anti-viral, antiseptic herb to use in housecleaning (see Resource below). It is an ancient plant native to the Mediterranean area and central Asia. Hyssop is also used in companion planting as a deterrent to the white cabbage moth.
There are at least 10 varieties of hyssop. Sunset hyssop is an aromatic perennial shrub that resembles salvia. It grows in full sun or partial shade to a height of 2 feet. This aromatic herb is hardy in all growing zones. The variety known as anise hyssop grows to 5 feet. The plants have whorls of purple, blue, or yellow flowers forming spike-like clusters. Flowers bloom July to November.
Hyssop is cultivated in three ways: by seed, by cuttings and by plant division. Plant seeds in April or take plant cuttings from older plants in spring. Hyssop may be divided at its root system in spring or autumn. New plants thrive in most garden conditions and do not need much water. They grow well in dry soil and do best when they are a foot apart. Hyssop has a bitter, minty flavor.
Hyssop is grown as a medical herb as well as a landscape perennial. As a landscape shrub, it is prized as a woody ornamental that has tall spikes of reddish purple flowers. The variety Firebird has coppery-orange flowers; Tutti-fruiti is purple. It is grown as a perennial border plant or in the herb garden. The anise hyssop has a licorice-like fragrance. Hyssop plants of all varieties attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
Hyssop is cultivated for the use of its flower tops. They are harvested in August for optimal potency. An infusion is made with the flower tops and it is used as an expectorant and a digestive aid. Hyssop tea made with the leaves is used as a remedy for rheumatism and asthma. It is usually given as a warm infusion, sometimes mixed with horehound. Hyssop leaves have traditionally been used externally to heal bruises.
Hyssop ( h.officinalis) essential oil is used in diluted form as an external remedy for joint pain and bruises. It is considered one of the strongest anti-viral essential oils. In a study at Germany's University of Heidelberg, hyssop and other essential oils were found to be effective against the herpes simplex virus type 2. Hyssop essential oil has stimulant and antiseptic qualities and is sometimes used to induce mental alertness.